Travel App Upgrades Add Value, Reduce Frustration

travel appTaking the skeptical point of view on travel apps can be dangerous. But with so many apps from a variety of sources doing their rendition of the technology du jour, it is easy to dismiss the lot of them as more of the same. Sometimes though, tiny updates to existing apps can make them a valuable addition to our soft travel gear.

Travel Plans In One Place, Now With Ground Options
Subscribers to TripIt, the intelligent travel plan organizer, now have access to a new feature that might make the service more valuable. Already, TripIt users create a trip by defining a travel window period of time in which it occurs. Filling in the details can be as easy as forwarding an email copy of airline, hotel and/or rental car reservations to Plans@TripIt.com, which reads and understands your plans with a high degree of accuracy.

Now, new TripIt feature Groundlink enables users to add ground transportation, coordinated with existing travel plans, from a smartphone. The app has a Track Your Ride feature that Glympse users will feel comfortable with. Groundlink users will pick their drop-off point from a map generated by Groundlink using nearby venues, addresses, ride history or airports. Already armed with up-to-date details of user flight plans, Groundlink will monitor user travels and advise ground transportation services if it looks like their ride might be delayed. Right now, Groundlink is offering 20 percent off rides booked via the TripIt Mobile App.

Connectivity Worldwide Now With Easy Payment
Boingo, worldwide connectivity company with over 600,000 hotspots worldwide, announced recently that iOS users can now use their secure iTunes account to buy a Boingo subscription. Making the app easier to use than ever, users can activate the new plan on multiple iOS devices, allowing customers to quickly connect to unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi without entering account information.

travel appBehind The Scenes Update For A Better Experience
Airbnb is an online service that allows “hosts” to rent unoccupied living space and other short-term lodging to guests. Testing the service here at Gadling has had mixed results. In the article “Important Warning For Anyone Using Airbnb,” Gadling’s Kyle Ellison warned, “if you plan on renting out a room or serving as a host, be sure you’re aware of the local laws, lest you receive a knock on the door that isn’t from a paying guest,” after discovering that many localities do not allow subletting. In “Airbnb Reconsidered,” Gadling writer Alex Robertson Textor highlights some communication problems inherent with the service that can be problematic.

In response to these concerns and others, Airbnb released a new update reported in techcrunch aimed not at users but at those who host them. One new feature will allow hosts to better communicate with potential users by pre-approving, denying, or requesting more information from guests. The hope is that the new features will increase the speed with which bookings can happen. Another feature will give hosts improved ability to update calendar listings, ensuring that the most current inventory can be seen by users.

Not Just Your Air, What You See Below
Delta Airlines, like most other carriers, has an app that will check you in, track your frequent flier program miles and more. Nothing really exciting there. But Delta’s Glass Bottom Jet is a unique app for iPad that brings users a bird’s-eye view of locations they are flying over. Users can explore the area with photos, landmarks and Wikipedia pages and tell you which Facebook friends you’re flying over. Check this video for more on Delta’s Glass Bottom Jet:



[Photo credit – Flickr user kamshots]

Wikipedia Will Officially Launch Travel Website Tuesday

Several sources are reporting the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation is slated to officially launch a travel website, Wikivoyage, this Tuesday, January 15. Similar to Wikipedia, the free website will be written by volunteer authors – except this website will solely focus on travel destinations and other travel topics, such as itineraries, phrasebooks and more.

During an interview on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” earlier this week, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said the website is a priority for the company.

“We have a travel site that’s opening up soon; we will see how it goes,” Wales said.

The new endeavor has been softly launched since September, and already has more than 26,000 articles in eight languages. Articles are laid out in the familiar Wikipedia format, providing historical and geographic information as well as information on what to eat, drink and do in certain locations.

“Wikivoyage is built with the spirit of sharing knowledge that makes travel so enjoyable,” reads the “about” page on the Wikivoyage website. “Whenever travellers meet each other on the road, they swap info about the places they came from and ask questions about places they’re going. We want to make it easy to share that knowledge and let others share it; our copyleft license means that the facts you know can spread far and wide.”

Rivals Wikitravel, a commercial travel wiki operated by Internet Brands, seem more than unhappy about the new endeavor. According to PC World, the company filed suit against two former volunteers, charging them with theft of intellectual property and unfair competition in a criminal conspiracy. But Wikimedia Foundation has fired back, seeking a judicial declaration that Internet Brands had no lawful right to impede, disrupt or block the creation of the new project.

The good news for travelers is that the guides can be viewed on desktop, tablet and smartphone, not to mention freely downloaded and printed. Although it’s too early to say for sure, the ever-updated website seems as though it will give traditional guidebooks like Lonely Planet, Fodor’s and Frommer’s a run for their money.

Video Of The Day: Woman’s Painful Escape While Running With Bulls

A woman narrowly outruns a trio of bulls stampeding through the streets, only to find herself having a run-in of a different kind. Her painful escape is a reminder that running of the bulls ceremonies often result in serious injuries, most of which aren’t directly caused by bulls. In Pamplona, Spain, the most famous location for this type of event, between 200 and 300 people are injured during the runs each year. Most injuries are minor, but according to Wikipedia, 15 people have been killed in Pamplona since record keeping began in 1924 – most by goring or suffocation. If the idea of being chased by bulls still sounds like a good time, the tradition is running strong in cities and towns throughout Spain, Portugal and Mexico.

[Video: Mortationparkour on YouTube]

Member Of Secret Disneyland Club Tells All


A member of Disneyland’s most exclusive club has been opening up to inquiring minds on Reddit, a social news website. The anonymous user has been defending the club’s $35,000 per year price tag, and also dished about dining with celebrities like Jack Nicholson and Tom Hanks.

The user introduced himself by saying he has been member of Club 33, a secret feature of Disneyland located in the heart of the New Orleans Square, for more than 10 years – and that the membership has been with his family for more than 30 years. The private club was opened in the 1960s, and the waiting list for membership is rumored to be 14 years.

Describing the scene, the member noted that celebrities can often be spotted at the club. “I’ve spoken to Jack Nicholson and Tom Hanks one on one while in the club,” he noted, adding that he tends to try and give celebrities their space.

He said a membership covers up to four family members. Besides access to the club, benefits include valet parking on a private lot, automatic upgrades at Disney properties, reserved seating at shows, a private car on the Disneyland Railroad, behind the scenes tours, immediate fast passes, invitations to special events and the ability to make reservations for friends and family members.

A former Disney Imagineer who was unable to access Club 33 asked if there were any of Walt Disney’s trademark gags inside. The member explained that there is an animatronic vulture in the Trophy Room, one of two dining rooms inside the club. He also noted Disney put an elevator that comes up from an underground garage so VIPs could be ushered in and out of New Orleans Square quickly and easily.

According to Wikipedia, the elevator is an exact replica of one Disney saw during a vacation in Paris. The owner of the original refused to sell, so Disney sent a team of engineers to the Parisian hotel to take measurements and a sample of the original finish for an exact replica.

Most of the people leaving comments on Reddit questioned whether or not the membership to the club was worth it. The member seemed undecided on the matter, pointing out that he mainly keeps his membership because it is a family tradition.

“While I make good money, I consciously pay the dues each year from some inheritance that was left to me by my parents,” he said. He also explained that dinner at the club comes at a cost of around $150 (without alcohol), and he only took advantage of his membership four times last year.

“If you’re a big Disney fan and want to enjoy 33 once, the price is worth the experience and memory,” he said, but he also pointed out that the best experiences he’s had because of the membership took place outside of the club.

The member also explained that Disneyland as a whole seems a little less magical than it was in years past.

“The attention to detail is fading quickly in the park,” he wrote, adding that maintenance and repair is also slipping. “[Twenty] years ago, something would be repaired the next day if the part was handy. Now things go for weeks before [they’re] replaced. If you ever meet an original Disney employee, ask them how often they saw a light bulb out.”

The member also offered a surprising tool for those looking to get into Club 33: Craigslist.

“Some members, especially the corporate ones, have been known to charge a hefty price tag to take guests,” he explained. “Alternatively, if you know any executives in the big well known brands in the [United States], ask them. Fewer and fewer corporate accounts are joining, but I’d have to assume it’s still the majority of the reservations.”

[Photo Credit: Creative Commons]

Geotagging Brings Mobile Tour Guide To The World

geotaggingGeotagging has brought us a wide array of travel apps, some better than others. Foursquare, HipGeo, the mobile version of Facebook and more allow us to record where we go and share that information with others. Tagwhat is another one. The Tagwhat difference: a new way of organizing information by using the context of location and interests.

Tagwhat promotes their app as a “mobile tour guide” that makes the user a local expert, wherever they go.

“People are curious about the world around them, especially when they visit new places,” says Tagwhat on its website. “While you can’t always hire a tour guide to share the hidden stories on your journey, we believe you can do even better.”

The free Tagwhat app finds and organizes content from the web and social networks to provide the user with information specific to their exact location, basically matching up the user’s location with all known information about it. Drawing from Wikipedia, FourSquare, Facebook and Twitter, Tagwhat brings stories, videos and photos about the places around you.

To get this content, Tagwhat leverages crowdsourcing, publisher partnerships, open sources like Wikipedia, and proprietary algorithms that analyze Tagwhat stories to identify related content.

Along the lines of HipGeo, Tagwhat lets users make a personal travel journal of the places they have been. Different (and better?) than HipGeo, Tagwhat allows the addition of multimedia stories about those places, all from iPhone and Android mobile devices.


Photo via Tagwhat